2017-01-10: Missouri House committee rejects smoke-free rules for its members

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Smoke-Me State Capitol, Jefferson City, Missouri 

As is the norm, at the start of a new session of the Missouri Legislature following statewide elections, rules are adopted for the conduct of the House and the Senate. And as has happened before, when an attempt was made on Tuesday, January 10th, 2017, to remove smoking from the last place it’s still allowed on the House side of the State Capitol in Jefferson City – in Members’ offices – it was rejected by the House Rules Committee on a party-line vote. That’s despite the fact that all other state-controlled offices were made smoke-free in the 1992 Missouri Clean Indoor Air Act (see Section 191.767.  4. and note that’s because adequate ventilation to allow smoking at minimum cost is unfeasible).

The Associated Press, which has an office in the State Capitol, published a story picked up by news outlets both within Missouri and elsewhere in the U.S. I’m grateful to Mr. Stan Cowan of Jefferson City for that AP story (reproduced immediately below in blue), followed by the text of his testimony at the hearing. Finally, a review of some past history of the efforts of individuals and MoGASP to promote a smoke-free State Capitol.

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP)  January 10, 2017
Missouri lawmakers have defeated an effort to ban smoking in state Capitol offices. 

Smoking already is prohibited in Capitol hallways and legislative chambers. On Tuesday, a House rules committee heard testimony from several high school students and the Jefferson City Council urging legislators to ban smoking everywhere in the Capitol, including in offices.

But the panel’s Republican majority struck down a proposed amendment to the House rules on a 9-4 party-line vote.

Republican leaders dismissed concerns about secondhand smoke, saying the number of legislators smoking in offices was small in comparison to past years or decades.

Neighboring states such as Kansas, Illinois, Arkansas and Iowa have smoke-free capitols. Forty one states nationwide do not allow smoking anywhere in their capitol building.
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Stan Cowan, the day after the hearing.

Testimony to Consent & House Procedure Committee
January 10, 2017
Stanley R. Cowan

In previous years, I tried presenting medical facts on the health impact of secondhand smoke to persuade the House Rules Committee of the need to discontinue needlessly exposing their colleagues, employees and visitors to this proven cause of heart disease, cancer and respiratory diseases.
Despite several Surgeon General reports citing thousands of scientific studies spanning more than 30 years, it has become apparent that the Rules Committee was not impressed with the medical evidence nor about harming the health of others in the Capitol building.
In promoting a healthier community, the city council of Jefferson City passed a resolution in 2013 encouraging the House Majority Caucus to adopt a smoke-free office policy “for the sake of the health of our citizens that work in the Capitol building, for visiting constituents, and for our children.”[i]

Last year, Rep. Sheila Solon (R-31, Blue Springs) introduced HB1669, an ethics reform bill that would limit possession and consumption of alcohol on capitol grounds except for special events, and would prohibit use of tobacco products in the capitol building. She was quoted in the Kansas City Star as noting,

“There’s a feeling of entitlement among (legislators) that we’re somehow special. The public can’t drink and smoke in the building, so why can we? I mean, come on, this is a workplace. How many people are allowed to drink and smoke in their workplace?”

The news story concluded with a statement from Rep. Gina Mitten (D-83, St Louis),

“The Capitol is a public building and workplace, and the legislature needs to set a good example as a healthy and safe workplace.”[ii]

HB1669 was scheduled for a February 1, 2016 hearing by the Oversight & Accountability Committee, but then was cancelled with no reason given and never re-scheduled.

Several newspapers have printed editorials in support of a policy for a smoke-free capitol building. [iii],[iv],[v],[vi],[vii],[viii]

The Joplin Globe took this a step further in January of 2015 with an online poll for the following question.

“Republicans in the Missouri Legislature this past week voted to allow their members to smoke in their offices, even though the Capitol is a public building where smoking is not permitted. Do you care if they smoke in their offices?”

The response was 73% did care if legislators smoked in their office, 27% did not care.[ix]

Two years ago, when attempting to testify before this same committee, I was cut short by Chairman Engler’s quick interruption of two main points:

  • Could I name any other job where people put in as long hours as do the legislators when in session?

Actually, there are 41 examples of exactly the same jobs where smokefree policies are the norm. These are for the legislators, staff and other workers in the state capitol buildings in Topeka, Little Rock, Des Moines, Springfield, etc. for a total of 41 state capitol buildings with smokefree policies. These include 7 of Missouri’s 8 bordering states.[x] Missouri is in the minority in not providing this simple and basic courtesy toward protecting people from this known health risk. A smokefree policy has worked in these other 41 state capitols, it can work in Missouri, too.
There are more legislators and staff that do not smoke, and thus should be protected from the entirely preventable risk to their health presented by secondhand smoke. Legislators addicted to nicotine have a wide variety of non-combustible nicotine products to satisfy their craving without polluting the air. In fact, some of these nicotine products, such as orbs and gelatin strips, can be used away from the legislator’s office, meaning the legislator would not be compelled to return to his/her office for a smoke when the nicotine craving occurs away from the office.

  • “Ice cream served in the Capitol Rotunda kills more people in this House than nicotine.”[xi]

Since 1965, every package of tobacco products have been required to carry a Surgeon General’s warning on the health impact. No such health warning is required for containers of ice cream. Ice cream, consumed in moderation, is not a health risk to most people (there is even a special ice cream safe for consumption by diabetics). Tobacco, even for light or occasional users, is not safe. Every single cigarette causes harm; every exposure to secondhand smoke causes harm.
A person consuming ice cream will not cause a health risk to people nearby. A person smoking tobacco does not only impact his/her own health, but also the health of everyone in the area.
After my attempted testimony before that committee two years ago, I was approached by a legislative aide who informed me the real air quality problem in the capitol building was mold and intimated I should direct my concerns to that issue.
The legislature responded to the mold problem and appropriated of funding for remediation work. However, the elimination of air pollution from secondhand smoke can be accomplished with no appropriation of any tax dollars whatsoever. It merely takes the political will to do what is right.

Let’s take to heart an inscription on our state seal which is engraved in one of the walls of the Capitol – Salus populi suprema lex esto – “The welfare of the people shall be the supreme law.” A smoke-free policy for “the people’s house” honors the welfare of the people; the status quo does not.

(For References, please see bottom of this blog.)
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In the past, Missouri GASP has worked with other individuals to promote a smoke-free State Capitol, with varying degrees of success.

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Vivian Dietemann

Ms. Vivian Dietemann of the City of St. Louis is owed a large debt of gratitude for taking action leading to a substantial reduction in smoking in the State Capitol. She initially wrote to then-Attorney General Jay Nixon in October 1993, and followed up with a detailed formal four page discrimination complaint dated January 9th, 1994.
The complaint alleged that allowing smoking in the State Capitol prevented her from accessing the building due to her severe asthma, exacerbated by exposure to secondhand smoke, in violation of both the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Ms. Dietemann’s complaint was forwarded to the three entities controlling the building: the House, the Senate, and the Office of Administration (OA). After some discussion and delay, it resulted in a major change from no smoking restrictions to a sweeping smoking policy being formally adopted in December 1994.
The House Smoking Policy, for example, made all public areas smoke-free, as well as House Hearing Rooms, the House Chamber, and the House Lounge. This was reported in a January 9, 1995, AP story (reproduced below) by David A. Lieb headlined “Ash Canned: Lawmakers Set No-Smoking Policy.”
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To view an enlarged version of the above story please click the following link:
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An additional complaint was filed by Missouri GASP in January 1995 on behalf of Vivian Dietemann and two other smoke-sensitive individuals, Sr. Luella Dames and Don Young, a laryngectomy survivor and former smoker, seeking an entirely smoke-free building and requesting a Self-Evaluation, as required by the ADA. Mr. Ted Wedel,  General Counsel, House Research in the House of Representatives, was charged with overseeing the Self-Evaluation. As part of that process, Dietemann, Dames and Young each completed a survey in my home in Ferguson on September 8th, 1997, overseen by Mr. Wedel. The event was captured in the accompanying photo.

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Standing are Vivian Dietemann and Don Young, with a neck scarf covering the stoma in his neck through which he breathes. Seated are Sr. Luella Dames, with an inhaler on her lap, and Ted Wedel, General Counsel, House Research.

Mrs. Helen Jaegers was added to the complaint in January 1998. She was then a Jefferson City resident working for a Representative in the State Capitol. In April 1996 she wrote to the Chief Clerk of the House describing how her severe asthma was exacerbated by workplace smoking, resulting in frequent hospital visits. Following an emergency room visit, she added a P.S.:

I am so ready to wake up from this nightmare.

This time-consuming effort, spanning just over four years, resulted in a February 5, 1999, Memorandum of Agreement between the House, Senate, Office of Administration, and Missouri GASP, identifying areas in the building which would be smoke-free. This included those already so designated and two building entrances. Additionally “all staff offices open to the public are designated as non-smoking.” The Memorandum is reproduced below.
https://mogasp.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/memo-of-agreement-state-capitol-feb-5-1999red.gif

The last small but significant step forward was taken at the beginning of the 2011 session when the Members’ Lounge adjoining the House chamber became smoke-free after a vote of the House Rules Committee. Before that change, smoke would drift into the chamber, especially whenever the door was opened.

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Mr. Billy Williams 2004

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Ms. Rossie Judd 2004

This accompanied a major but ultimately unsuccessful effort to make the entire House of Representatives smoke-free, led by former state Rep. Jeanette Mott-Oxford, based on an ADA complaint filed by Mr. Billy Williams, Executive Director of GASP of Texas, on behalf of Ms. Rossie Judd, from Fenton, MO.
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Testimony to Consent & House Procedure Committee
January 10, 2017
Stanley R. Cowan – 
References:

[i] RS2013-32, Resolution Supporting the House Majority Caucus Adoption of a Policy to Prohibit Smoking Within the Offices of Its Members, City of Jefferson, December 3, 2013.
[ii] Jason Hancock, Missouri lawmaker pushes to ban alcohol, smoking in Capitol, January 22, 2016, Kansas City Star, http://www.kansascity.com/news/government-politics/article56120635.html
[iii] No-smoking exemption invites public scorn, January 18, 2013, Jefferson City News Tribune, http://epaper.wehco.com/daily/skins/JeffersonCity/ 
[iv] House GOP moves to retain smoking, avoid the heat, February 8, 2013, Jefferson City News Tribune, http://epaper.wehco.com/daily/skins/JeffersonCity/
[v] Live by the laws, Sunday, January 18, 2015, Joplin globe, http://www.joplinglobe.com/opinion/columns/our-view-live-by-the-laws/article_763d1f16-32cf-5aab-9edf-fdf253f6295b.html
[vi] Missouri Laws Should Apply to Lawmakers, February 21, 2016, Joplin Globe http://www.joplinglobe.com/opinion/columns/our-view-missouri-laws-should-apply-to-lawmakers/article_6ab89368-9d79-5fc5-8873-dbe7ac67677b.html
[vii] Lawmakers have not earned added responsibilities, February 24, 2016, Jefferson City News Tribune, http://www.newstribune.com/news/2016/feb/24/our-opinion-lawmakers-have-not-earned-added-respon/
[viii] Self-interest must play no role in Capitol stewardship, April 24, 2016, Jefferson City News Tribune,http://www.newstribune.com/news/2016/apr/24/our-opinion-self-interest-must-play-no-role-capito/
[ix] http://www.joplinglobe.com/news/republicans-in-the-missouri-legislature-this-past-week-voted-to/poll_e3fac638-a028-11e4-a2a4-77b2361ad21c.html
[x] The exception is Kentucky
[xi] Virginia Young, Missouri House rules spread power but won’t ban smoking in offices, 2015-01-13T15:00:00Z 2015-01-13T20:16:09Z Missouri House rules spread power but won’t ban smoking in officesBy Virginia Young vyoung@post-dispatch.com 573-556-6181 stltoday.com January 13, 2013, St Louis Post Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/virginia-young/missouri-house-rules-spread-power-but-won-t-ban-smoking/article_f6850124-361f-5800-8a02-e8724b515dfb.html
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Smoking killed Princess Leia

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Stan Glantz, PhD, as featured in
the 2014 documentary movie
Merchants of Doubt

Stanton “Stan” Glantz, PhD, a professor at UCSF School of Medicine in San Francisco, CA, has been a tireless campaigner for smoke-free air for decades, and bitter opponent of the tobacco industry. His interests more recently include smoking in movies, identified as encouraging smoking initiation.

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Dr. Stuart Kreisman

In a  January 5th, 2017, e-mail from Stan Glantz to his list he applauds Stuart H. Kriesman, MD, on the Faculty of Medicine at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada, for an excellent just-published opinion piece titled:
Princess Leia ultimately killed by the real Darth Vader
.

Dr. Kreisman begins by reminding us of why smoking continues to be such a major health problem, “accounting for 10% of all Canadian deaths, and kills more people than alcohol, drugs, car accidents, murder, suicide, and AIDS combined.” He notes how the tobacco industry has reacted to the need to find new customers, focusing its efforts on addicting teens, with movies being “one of the main legal avenues remaining for the industry to (indirectly) market to children.”

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Carrie Fisher in Star Wars

He adds: “Numerous studies have shown that smoking in movies makes teens more likely to try smoking,” accounting for nearly 40% of youth smoking initiation.

Dr. Kriesman notes that Carrie Fisher was a lifelong smoker. “She had also fought mental health and addiction battles, smoking prevalence being disproportionately elevated in both of these groups.” He concludes that smoking was likely the cause of her death on December 27, 2016, at age 60 from a sudden heart attack.

(Stan Glantz notes that “Most people don’t know that smoking causes heart attacks.” There was no such connection made in news reports I saw or read in the case of Carrie Fisher. However, a Google search of “Carrie Fisher’s heart attack due to smoking” did include such mention in a USA Today article, which added that “diabetes, lack of exercise and obesity are more potent risks in women.”)

Dr. Kriesman’s OpEd suggests many opportunities for action against the tobacco industry, such as increasing the age limit for tobacco product purchases to 21. This is something which St. Louis County Councilman Sam Page, M.D. successfully accomplished in September 2016, with bipartisan support. That was followed shortly afterwards by the City of St. Louis approving a similar bill sponsored by Alderwoman Dionne Flowers.

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Actress Debbie Reynolds with daughter Carrie Fisher. Ms Reynolds died from a stroke the day after her daughter’s death, attributed to grief.

Dr. Kriesman’s OpEd concludes:
“Most importantly, recruit Hollywood’s help and take control of smoking’s image — show that it truly is not cool, but instead, a never-ending beauty-and-health-destroying, poverty-inducing, pathophysiological battle against nicotine withdrawal that mostly traps society’s weakest (and least enviable) members.

Maybe Princess Leia can help us defeat true organized evil after all.

Stan Glantz features Dr. Kriesman’s blog on the Smoke Free Movies blog at https://smokefreemovies.ucsf.edu/blog/smoking-killed-princess-leia and @SmokeFreeMovies and @ProfGlantz.

1993-01-14 P-D: “County’s Plan To Curb Smoking Burns Some Workers” & parody

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Virgil Tipton, May 2013

On January 14th, 1993, then St. Louis Post-Dispatch staff reporter, Virgil Tipton, wrote a story about smoking employees faced with curbs on smoking in the County Government Center in Clayton, an effort spearheaded by former St. Louis County Councilman Kurt Odenwald. I thought the tone was overly sympathetic to the smokers, and wrote to Mr. Tipton expressing my concerns, to which he was good enough to reply. Subsequently, I wrote a parody, substituting alcohol for cigarettes, and sent it to him.
While tidying up recently, which I do every decade or so, I discovered both the original story on page 3A and the (unpublished) parody in my letter to Mr. Tipton. I reproduce both below for your enjoyment, preceded by part of my letter to him.

Excerpt from Martin Pion’s letter to Virgil Tipton:
“Before you read on, I should say that I don’t think you handled the story any differently from the average reporter, but that’s the problem.
Suppose instead you were doing a story on drunken drivers, and a new county law proposing stiffer regulations. But instead of seeking out the survivors of collisions with drunken drivers, or the families of deceased victims, you instead went into bars looking for drunken drivers, or stopped a drunk about to get into a car and drive off, and interviewed those individuals to gauge the effect of the new law. And the picture you ran was not of the victims of drunken drivers, but drunken drivers themselves knocking back beers in a bar. In fact, the story would more or less focus on drunken drivers, and show them as the victims. It might run something like this:” (Please see below newspaper article.)

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County’s Plan To Curb Smoking Burns Some Workers
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County Plan Means Trouble Brewing for Drunken Drivers
By Virgin O. N. Tipsy*
Of the Post-Dispatch staff

Two things were coming to a head in the county bar Wednesday. One was Caverne Burpp’s beer. The other was Caverne Burpp because of further restrictions proposed by the county council on drunken driving. Burpp claimed the proposals were nothing short of discriminatory. Burpp said trucks and speeders caused more deaths and accidents than drunken drivers. “All they get is a slap on the hand – and that’s the end of it,” Burpp said. “What will be our next right taken away?”
The proposal, expected to be introduced at today’s council meeting, would ban drunken drivers on county roads, including those around the airport, except on specially designated roads with guard rails to separate them from non-drunken drivers.
Under the county’s current ordinance, drunken drivers can drive only in the outside lane of all county roads, except when passing.
The backdrop to this measure is a report issued last week by the Department of Transportation. The report says that drunken driving is responsible for almost 20,000 road deaths a year.
The idea of the measure is obvious – to keep drunken drivers away from sober drivers, said Councilman Curt S. See, who is proposing the measure.
“When drunken drivers drive on public highways, they are a hazard to those who don’t drive drunk and who don’t want their lives endangered,” said See.
See said drunken drivers would not lose out entirely because the measure allows for some designated drunken driver lanes with guard rails.
“I do think that people who drive drunk have some rights, at least, that’s how I see it” See said.
But if setting up separate lanes for drunken drivers proves impossible, See said he would move ahead with the measure anyway. In that case, drunken drivers would still be permitted to drive drunk, provided they didn’t do it on county roads.
During the happy hour at a tavern near the St. Louis County Council Government Center on Wednesday, drunken drivers put away pints of draught while vowing to put away See’s proposal.
“It’s not fair,” said Tipsy Todd of Florissant. “I don’t tell people not to pass me because I don’t like being passed. If I didn’t drive drunk I’d feel the same way.”
Across from the The Drunken Drivers’ Tavern, in a hospital emergency room, Bev E. Rage quietly celebrated on a soda.
Rage, who quit drunken driving three years ago after being involved in a near-fatal collision, recently ended up in the hospital again after being hit by a drunken driver that morning. She said she had her car reinforced front and back but was hit broadside at a stop light.
“I think they should have a place to drive drunk – but I think it should be separated by a guard rail,” Rage said. “They can drive stoned 200 miles a day if they want, but I don’t want them coming at me.”

*A parody, by Martin Pion

Beetle Bailey’s former smoker, Private Rocky, evokes my late sister’s memory

Back on May 12th, 2016, a Beetle Bailey comic strip appeared in the daily St. Louis Post-Dispatch that caught my eye and I added it to the newspaper pile on my office floor. That’s where it stayed until I recently did some office cleaning. The strip featured Private Rocky, described on-line as follows:

Camp Swampy’s long-haired, disgruntled social dissident; a former biker gang member and rebel-without-a-clue, introduced to the “BEETLE BAILEY” comic strip in 1958. This dude probably got into the US Army via a court order, where he was told, “Join up, or go to prison!” Definitely, he was a malcontent from “the wrong side of the tracks.” 

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Beetle Bailey – By Mort and Greg Walker, St. Louis Post-Dispatch 5-12-2016

In this particular strip, Rocky is reminiscing from the days before he quit smoking and in the strip it’s funny. But it reminded me of a very unpleasant personal encounter with a cigar smoker after I had asked him to quit smoking in an airport area signed “No Smoking.”  Ironically, at the time I was flying to see my non-smoking sister living in England dying of lung cancer.

The above strip has awakened my memory of that devastating personal event, since I loved and revered my sister and only sibling enormously. Afterwards I wrote a personal account of the event, thinking I might submit it for publication, but I never did. I’ve lost the original computer file but below is a copy of the printed version for anyone interested. (And my apologies in advance for the five page length.)

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2016-11-28: A look back at Amendment 3

Amendment 3, which aimed to raise Missouri’s lowest-in-the nation cigarette tax by 60 cents a pack over four years, went down to defeat, 59.2% to 40.8% (or 1,609,953 votes to 1,107,716) on November 8th, 2016. At least 75% of the money raised was to have been dedicated to early childhood education programs, said to be currently underfunded, with some also going to early childhood health and smoking prevention programs. It would have closed a tax loophole which presently allows smaller tobacco companies not part of the Master Settlement Agreement to sell more competitively in the state.

The primary organizers of Amendment 3, Raise Your Hands for Kids, received $12.1 million of its nearly $13 million in contributions from Reynolds American tobacco. This was partly responsible for generating opposition from many tobacco control and smoke-free air advocacy groups, among others.

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Ron Leone

The amendment was also opposed by the Missouri Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association, led by Executive Director Ron Leone. It wanted to protect the tax loophole currently enjoyed by smaller tobacco brands to maintain profits, and spearheaded a competing proposal, Proposition A.

This was for a more modest cigarette tax increase in increments totaling only 23 cents a pack by 2021 with revenue being deposited in the state’s Transportation Infrastructure Fund.

According to Ballotpedia, two tobacco companies benefiting from the current tobacco tax exemptions, Cheyenne International and XCaliber International donated a combined $4.8 million to the PAC supporting Proposition A and opposing Amendment 3.

On November 8th, Proposition A was defeated 55.3% to 44.7% (1,494,886 votes to 1,210,199).

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Dr. Anthony Pearson

There were strong arguments in favor of Amendment 3, such as those featured in an in-depth blog called The Skeptical Cardiologist by Anthony C. Pearson, M.D., of St. Luke’s Hospital in St. Louis.

Reviewing them makes me wonder if the defeat of Amendment 3 wasn’t a significant lost opportunity. At the same time, I believe the funding should have been specifically dedicated to reducing smoking prevalence in the state by proven successful advertising campaigns and helping smokers quit. Also the entire proposed cigarette tax increase – preferably a dollar rather than 60 cents – needed to go into effect at once, and not be spread over four years in 15 cent increments.

2016-11-03 StLotA: “Election 2016: Pros and cons of Missouri’s Proposition A, the 23 cent proposed tobacco tax”

I just listened to today’s St. Louis on the Air, devoted to discussing the two tobacco tax increase proposals on the November 8th ballot. I thought that Stacy Reliford of the American Cancer Society gave a fine performance against smooth-tongued Ron Leone, Executive Director of the Missouri Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association, despite his being well armed with facts.

But he did better in the second half of the broadcast when debating Jane Dueker, an attorney representing Constitutional Amendment 3 (sponsored by Raise Your Hands For Kids, or RYH4K), a group advocating for early childhood education.

So far, I can only find a link to the first half of the broadcast at tinyurl.com/zcz7n49 and I’ve reproduced that below. You can listen to the full broadcast by going to the above link and scrolling down.

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Ron Leone

Note: Ron Leone has changed quite a bit since the black and white photo I have of him on file (at left), which I used in my blog of November 1st. But he still has considerably more hair than me, and he doesn’t look so evil now!)

“On Tuesday, Nov. 1, St. Louis on the Air hosted a moderated conversation in the Community Room at St. Louis Public Radio about Amendments 3, 4 and 6 as well as Proposition A. This was an effort to inform voters on statewide ballot issues they would see on Nov. 8.

The third part of the conversation centered on Proposition A, which would increase taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products a total of 23 cents per pack by 2021. The proceeds of the tax would go to fund transportation infrastructure.

This measure is one of two tobacco tax-related measures on Missouri’s ballot. The other is Constitutional Amendment 3.

During this part of the conversation, we heard from one proponent and one opponent of Proposition A. Ron Leone, executive director of the Missouri Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association, represented the “pro” side of the argument. Stacy Reliford, the Missouri Government Relations Director for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, represented the “con” side of the argument.

Want an in-depth, objective analysis of what the amendment would do? Read this story from St. Louis Public Radio’s Jo Mannies: “Rival tobacco tax proposals focus all their energies on Missouri’s Amendment 3.

Below, please find major “pro” and “con” arguments summarized.

PRO: Ron Leone wants people to vote “Yes” on Proposition A. Here are his main points:

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Ron Leone is a proponent of Proposition A
Photo credit Kelly Moffitt, St. Louis Public Radio

The Missouri Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association was tired of having to fight “outrageous and unfair” tobacco taxes every 2-4 years and hopes this incrementally increasing tax will reduce the need to fight such measures and protect the MPCA.

  • By 2021, the tax will have increased 135%, which is considered “fair and reasonable” because it will keep Missouri at a competitive tax advantage over our eight border states.
  • The tax will generate $100 million, which will go toward fixing Missouri’s roads and bridges. It does not solve lack of funding for MODOT, but would help.
  • There appears to be no other transportation funding fix coming down the pike.
  • People come to Missouri to buy cigarettes and other tobacco products, which generates sales tax, tobacco tax and motor fuels tax. This tax will ensure the state’s prices stay competitive so that people from other border states will still come here and spend money.
  • The proposition has a “rollback” clause that if anyone tries to pass another tobacco tax by initiative petition, this tax will revert to zero. The MPCA did not want to pass this proposition to protect itself one year and have it undone the next.
  • If both Proposition A and Amendment 3 pass, it is unclear what will happen: either the higher tax cancels the other tax out or the taxes will be cumulative. The courts will decide.

Essentially, Ron Leone wants people to vote “Yes” on Proposition A because he thinks smaller, incremental tax increases on tobacco will keep Missouri competitive and bring spenders here from other states while also garnering money to invest in transportation infrastructure.

CON: Stacy Reliford urges a “No” vote on Proposition A. Here are her main points:

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Stacy Reliford is an opponent of Proposition A
Photo credit Kelly Moffitt, St. Louis Public Radio

  • The amount of the proposed tax increase is not designed to reduce smoking. Only bigger, more substantial tax increases of $1 or more impact consumer behavior.
  • The proposition was written by those in the tobacco industry, and those who profit from selling cigarettes and consumers’ health was not in mind.
  • This will only move Missouri to being 49th instead of 51st in cheapest cigarettes in the country and that is holding all other tobacco prices constant.
  • It does not make sense to sell cigarettes to boost the state’s economy, when cigarette use in our state costs $644 million in Medicaid alone.
  • Per the proposition’s “rollback clause,” any other tobacco tax only has to make it on the ballot to be repealed — it doesn’t even have to pass. That could cut the transportation funding right away.
  • Not knowing the complete and total outcome of what this vote means — if the tax would or would not be compounded with Amendment 3 should they both pass — is dangerous for voters to approve.
  • This proposition is really about discouraging the state from ever raising taxes on tobacco enough to dissuade consumers from buying and using them.

Essentially, Stacy Reliford wants people to vote “no” on Proposition A because the tax will not effectively dissuade consumers from purchasing and using tobacco, which has proven harmful for people’s health and costly for the state.

Want to read more pro/cons about Missouri ballot measures? Read these perspectives about Constitutional Amendment 6 and  Constitutional Amendment 4.”

2016-10-31 P-D LTE: “Amendment 3 is not what it appears to be”

St. Louis Post-Dispatch Letters to the editor, Oct 31, 2016 (12 comments)

Amendment 3 is not what it appears to be

I thought surely I was having a bad dream when I read the Post-Dispatch’s support (Oct. 24) for Constitutional Amendment 3 — the Trojan horse masquerading as a worthy source of funding for early childhood health and education programs.

Ever since 2006 when the Missouri Stem Cell Amendment was passed, I have had a good dream — a bright and hopeful dream — of research that could result in cures for diseases such as type 1 diabetes, Parkinson’s and others. But the many strings attached to this amendment could set back earlier victories that opened the way for critical medical research. The fact that it is bankrolled by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. should be a clue that this is not what it appears to be.

If the Post-Dispatch is so certain that its judgment trumps that of organizations such as Washington University, the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association and many others of equal pedigree on record opposing the amendment, could it not at least make mention that others have thoughtful and legitimate reasons to take exception — and why?

While I would never dispute the need for funding for early childhood education, it seems clear that this is not the way to do it.

I urge voters to consider other editorial voices of the state’s major newspapers who see the proposition for the sham that it is.

Marianna Riley • Webster Groves